REST your SOAP, and don’t worry, be happy

Bridging the gap between old and new is a challenge we all have been grappling with forever.  It’s inevitable that the “IT” thing of today, will be replaced by a new innovation down the road.  The caveman started with the rock, which was later replaced by the club, which later gave way to the spear.  New advancements did not replace the previous technology entirely; rather it simply redefined more appropriate uses.  For example, stones are ideal to craft spear points, and clubs when laced with leather and curved stones proved invaluable for digging.  Thankfully, this innovation continues to propel society forwards, but it often leads to confusion for “traditionalists” who find themselves unwilling to adopt or change.  So, what does all this have to do with technology?  Plenty, read more to find out why.

The early days of computing consisted of centralized information on a mainframe that was accessed through dumb terminals.  The invention and widespread adoption of the PC gave rise to Client Server computing.  The Internet ushered in another era of computing, which ultimately led businesses to adopt Service Oriented architecture to enable discrete program artifacts to be developed once, and reused time and again within the enterprise.  Companies quickly realized that if they could get discrete propram artifacts called Web Services to communicate with a customers’ or partners’ Web Service, they could further streamline operations.  All that was a needed was a common way to define information, securely transport this information, and provide instructions for the receiver about what to do with that information.  Enter SOAP to the rescue; You know you’re soaking in it?  (I couldn’t resist)  No, not that kind of SOAP!  SOAP once stood for Simple Object Access Protocol, but now it’s no longer an acronym, it’s now just plain old SOAP, but the protocol is just what was needed to help solve the challenge.

SOAP consists of three parts, (1) The envelope – think of this as a message wrapper  (2)  Encoding Rules – contains application defined data-types, and (3) Procedure calls and responses.  SOAP messages are formatted in XML or Extensible Markup Language and typically rely upon HTTP or SMTP for message transmission. SOAP has been around since 1998, and as such, it’s a mature and battle tested protocol used for exchanging structured information though Web Services.  The trouble is, SOAP as a protocol is very verbose – meaning, the quantity of information sent and received utilizing SOAP is fairly extensive.  This limitation wasn’t so much of a problem within the enterprise, but once companies moved to a mobile platform where users are “in the wild” the challenges of spotty and limited bandwidth become the norm, SOAP just doesn’t deliver.  The solution: Representational State Transfer Protocol or REST protocol to the rescue.

Unlike SOAP, REST is an abstraction protocol that links an end-user or client to another resource that holds information; these “other” resources can be either dynamic or static.  This fact that the information conveyed is simply an abstraction makes REST very lightweight, which is ideal for mobile users.  However, the REST protocol lacks maturity, and totally misses the boat on security.  As a result, businesses that have built an extensive service layer built upon SOAP, now find themselves faced with some difficult decisions:

1.  Deliver services that they know will be slow based upon SOAP

2.  Migrate or re-write existing services to REST and worry about security.

3.  Ignore the fastest growing segment of computing – mobile users

You don’t have to be Einstein to realize that each of the three options is unworkable, but fortunately, there is a 4th option.  Enter the Vordel Gateway.  A Gateway is really a high performance Input/Output device that is most often used to monitor all communications traffic coming into and out of an enterprise.  The brilliant thing about the Vordel Gateway is that not only does it monitor traffic, but it can also invoke operations against that traffic in near real time.  And, one of those operations is, you guessed it: Transformation.  You can think of it as an interpreter, like in the UN when an ambassador listens to a foreigner speak by donning one of those silly headsets so that he/she can hear what’s being said.  Only, the Vordel Gateway is capable of transforming information to and from different protocols at breakneck speeds, and – this is the best part, the Vordel Gateway can also make-up for SOAP’s limitations by implementing it’s own security policies (No headset required:).  Therefore, by simply introducing Vordel Gateway – Voila, everyone is happy.  You don’t have to re-write code that took months or years to develop, your information is safeguarded, and you are able to quickly bring to market new mobile services in record time – thereby saving time, resources, and money.  So, get some REST and find out what Vordel can do for you.



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